Canada’s First Nations Demand Opinion Regarding Marijuana Laws

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At the December 6th annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the leaders of Canada’s native residents demanded the authority to be able to set their own marijuana laws within their territory. The Chief expressed their concerns regarding the plan to legalize adult-use marijuana by July.

The outlooks are mixed within the native communities as some officials are seeking a more restrictive approach but are also excited about the revenue that will be generated from the budding industry. On the other hand, other communities asked the AFN for a delay of the implementation of Bill C-45, stating that their communities are not prepared for a legal marijuana industry. One thing the leaders of the native communities agreed on was that they should be permitted to determine the regulations involving marijuana on Canada’s reserves.

The AFN has called on committee, led by Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day and Quebec Regional Chief Ghislain Picard, to deal with the situation.

“Above all, we do need to look at this from a jurisdictional lens,” said Day. “Our people are going to say, ‘Listen, we have aboriginal treaty rights, we have economic rights as First Nations people. Who is Canada to say we can’t have a dispensary in our community?’”

Day also mentioned the idea of the First Nations pursuing a more restrictive system .
For example, if a province sets the legal age of marijuana consumption to be permitted at 18, “but what if a [First Nations] community says we want it to be 23 or 24 because the studies show that the development of a young person’s brain isn’t complete until they are in their 20s?”

Randal Phillips, chief of Oneida Nation of the Thames, stated that his community is applying for a federal license to grow marijuana. “We will decide who gets it. We will decide how it gets distributed. We will decide how it gets protected, and we are going to look at all those things. But I don’t need a regulatory framework,” said Phillips.

Day complained about the country forgetting about Canada’s indigenous peoples during the political process of legalization to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation saying, “There was very little inclusion of First Nations in the development of the bill, very little consultation. Every First Nation community has the right to choose and because the province didn’t include us in the front end, there’s no existing framework for us now going forward”.

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